Book Review: World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

To be honest, I almost feel that this book was specially made for me. I'm a big fan of war history books (about 30% of my personal library) and at the moment, I'm trying to expand my collection of zombie novels. History books and zombie novels. This book is the lovechild of these two interests.

Make no mistake though, this book is not only for pop zombie flick enthusiasts.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is a pseudohistorical account of events that have not happened yet, although from the settings and contemporary references used, World War Z will occur sometime within the next few years.

The zombie war is the term used by the author to label a period that covers the spread of an unknown disease that kills infected and turns them into near immortal zombies, the subsequent collapse of society on a global scale, and the eventual adaption and survival of the remaining humans.

The novel is written from the perspective of an investigative journalist, whose presence is limited in the foreword and sidenotes throughout the book. The rest is basically a collection of interviews from survivors on their perspective of the unfolding of events, some of them informed briefers of how events unfolded, others, anecdotal tales of the witnesses. The interviews are both broad and jarringly realistic, with diverse accounts ranging in locations from Russia, Palestine, India, North Korea, Japan, the United States of America to up in the space stations. Characters introduced are both diverse and colorful, from a blind japanese man, a young child, to a US army grunt. Through the smaller picture recounted by the various tales woven in the book, a more vivid, bigger picture emerges - one that could not have been written in any other way without being less vivid.

The interrelation of the various accounts is very tight and at the same time very subtle, allowing you to feel that the stories were not randomly constructed from fictional accounts, but real tales that correlate with each other, without sounding trying hard. Everything feels natural, and the pace of unfolding the events from one tale to another ensures a riveting experience from cover to cover.

As a bonus, to add to the effect of realism, various iconic celebrity figures such as hollywood actors and political icons were figured in although their names were coyly through narrative devices (possibly to avoid legal issues. Nobody wants to be publicized as "that guy who got mauled to death by Zacks, the story's term for zombies)

On top of the human factor, I think one of the best features of this book is how fictional elements are woven in without sounding farfetched. The existence of a zombie-churning virus, although not explained, gets accepted by your system gradually as fictional characters ease you into the same experience of disbelief they had. Made-up new technologies developed during the war are woven into existing ones, making the casual reader not even know that some elements aren't real anymore.

The end product is what might be considerable as a classical masterpiece, were it not covering the popular culture idea of zombie apocalypse. The writing is nothing artistic, but being a fictional account of various everyday people, this lack of lingual mastery is beautifully made excusable.

To keep it short, beyond the shadow of a doubt, World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War is the best and most creative speculative fiction I have read in years. Beyond telling you what happened in World War Z, it will make you live through it, and in the end make you appreciate what you have and what you are - a living human in a pre-zombified world.

World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War is written by Max Brooks and is available in Powerbooks at 665 pesos (fucking worth it I fucking tell you)

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